A Tender Tale

Chapter 4:
End of Detour: the REAL tour
 So this is the "real" Navy...

{Popcorn... with Hot Butter}

It's January 1973 - we're sailing into Apra Harbor - approachingthe east pier that forms one wall of the channel into the innerharbor - and Polaris Point... We can see a bunch of people onthe pier - looking for familiar faces and waving as eyes meet.Some are friends - some are family. The Hunley has a couple ofboats along side - one of them is my brother-in-law's boat - theNathan Hale (SSBN 623). But he's on the "other" crew- back in Hawaii. I'll see him in three months when the Blue andGold crews rotate once again. We tie up to the pier - and thatundercurrent of chaos that I'd barely experienced a year beforewas suddenly underway again - People, equipment, supplies and"stuff" started flowing between the ships almost immediately- the Hunley crew was ready to leave - and of course our job (atthe moment) was to get them on their way.

During the overhaul - I was given tasks to do - which I did -but I seldom "found" things to do - . The same was truefor most of the people that I worked with - there just wasn'tany enthusiasm - no dedication. But one of the first things Inoticed once we were back on station - No -- in fact I startednoticing it after we left Australia - the people who were indifferentthree weeks ago - were suddenly charged up - like draft horsesready to go to work. When we finally got tied to the pier - severalcharged over to the Hunley to expedite getting everything turnedover. I remember thinking - What's the rush? What's with thesepeople? Chaos. No one was telling anyone what to do - yet someof these guys were dashing about like there was no tomorrow. It'snot that there wasn't a chain of command - nor that things weren'tgetting done - no it was just the opposite. These people seemedto know instinctively what needed to be done - and they didn'twait for anyone to tell them to do it. After the turnover - andthings began to settle into a routine - I figured that the initialnewness would wear off - and things would be like they were throughthe yard. Nope. There seemed to be this "core" of people- the leadership - who took charge - with confidence and competence- and they weren't necessarily the chiefs, etc. At first - I dreadeda boat arriving for re-fit. Long hours "deciding" whatto do - then more long hours getting it done. The worst part wasnot "knowing" what was going on. Slowly - I caught onthat if you want to be "included" you gotta get involved.I also had an experience that I found very uncomfortable: I finallyran into something that I wasn't an expert at - that I couldn'tavoid. I don't mean that to sound like a smart-aleck. I was usedto being very knowledgeable about electronics - stand toe to toewith anyone. Math - was a problem. Never was much good at it.And it turns out - the part of SINS I hadn't been trainedfor - the analysis part - is nothing but heavy math!!!!Fixing a SINS is easy - just show me what's broke - and I'll haveit fixed in minutes. Analyze the last 20 days of a patrol to finda correction factor - or determine if an error is caused by hardwareor software? Sheeezzz...

And the thing you have to realize - as it came to press upon all of us - is that the reason this navigational information has to be so accurate from these "SINS" - is because it is the basis upon which the flight of up to 16 nuclear missiles will deliver their awesome destruction are aimed. Unlike modern "smart" weapons of today - once a Polaris, Poseidon or Trident is launched - there is no correction - no changing your mind - no safety if it's mis-aimed. Each boat carries more destructive force than was dropped on Europe during all of WWII... Mis-aim that - and how many innocents are killed? I (and all others in the "Special Weapons" program) are all volunteers - and have expressed that we will have no reservation about retaliating against an aggressor's attack - but NONE of us have any desire to harm innocent people - especially due to the fact we didn't do our job "well enough". SINS tells the missile where it's at - it knows how (from there) to reach it's target. If it's origin is off even a little - it can make a very serious error after 2500 -4500 miles of flight. So the "motivation" to strive for perfection is pretty strong!


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